The father of one of the young women rescued at sea on Thursday has told of the horrific night he and his family experienced when the two cousins were missing.
Johnny Glynn, father of Ellen, 17, told Newstalk Breakfast that he had feared the worst by Thursday morning when the women had been missing almost 12 hours.
Ellen remained in hospital overnight while her cousin Sarah was released on Thursday.
Mr Glynn recounted the frantic search he and his wife Deirdre had conducted on Wednesday night and Thursday morning along the Co Clare coastline across the bay from their Galway home.
The young women usually went swimming or paddleboarding on Silver Strand beach, but it had been closed due to Covid-19 so they went to Furbo which they would not have known well, he said.
His wife Deirdre had called him later concerned that the girls had drifted out to sea.
By the time he arrived at Furbo beach it was dark and he couldn’t see anything.
His sister-in-law Helen (Sarah’s mother) had called for help and he was concerned as “every minute they were going further and further out.”
Mr Glynn said he then called a friend who works with the ferry to Doolin, Donie Garrihy who told him he could see on the satellite that there were boats already out in the search, but Mr Glynn wanted a helicopter involved.
By 10.30pm, a helicopter had joined the search. Mr Glynn and his wife stayed on the beach until 1am and then decided to drive around the coast to Co Clare to conduct a search on beaches there.
“We thought it most likely that was the way they were heading because of winds,” he said.
The couple arrived in Clare at 3.30am but it was 5am before first light and they searched beaches from Ballyvaughan to Kinvara.
“It was a rough night, with heavy rain.”
Mr Glynn said he wanted to get as many people as possible out searching as he knew there was a narrow window of opportunity between first light and last light.
“We were messaging people, asking them to get out searching.”
By 9.30am the couple returned to Galway to tell their three younger daughters that Ellen was missing.
“We had to be fairly honest,” Mr Glynn admitted, saying that at that stage he was not hopeful.
“I just wanted to find them and I was just hoping that they were together.”
At lunchtime they got the good news that Ellen and Sarah had been found. After talking to Ellen he found that they had tied their paddleboards together.
When they saw the Cliffs of Moher Sarah and Ellen decided they had to head towards the Aran Islands otherwise they would be pulled out into the Atlantic.
“They said they saw the helicopters hovering, they were screaming, but they couldn’t hear them. They could see boats in the distance. It was really tough going.
“They were looking out for something to grab on to. They found the lobster pot and they clung on.
“When they saw the boat, Sarah said this boat is coming for us. It was the Olivers and they picked them up.”
Mr Glynn said that when he saw the girls getting off the helicopter and in the hospital they were both wearing little hats which had been given to them by Patrick and Morgan Oliver.
“They were hungry and the Olivers gave them whatever food they had on board and flavoured water.” Mr Glynn said he wanted to thank everyone involved in the search and rescue for their help.
The chief executive of Water Safety Ireland has said that the two young women rescued after 15 hours at sea “made their own miracle” by staying together and wearing buoyancy aids.
“The two young ladies made it the miracle. What they did was very sensible,” John Leech told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.
Mr Leech also paid tribute to the father and son duo who found the women, Patrick and Morgan Oliver, Morgan for spotting the women in the water and Patrick for trusting his instinct and following the wind direction.
The Olivers were a “great seafaring family” he said as Patrick is also a lifeboat crew member and two years ago his nephew Séan, had helped rescue a man in Galway Bay.
He hoped that the father and son would be recognised for their bravery with an award.
Mr Leech said that the young women had survived because they had been on their boards and not in the water.